Overall Satisfaction with SolarWinds Server & Application Monitor
We use SolarWinds SAM to monitor and remediate web servers and applications. The point is to try and improve SLA for the business and user experience for our customers by automating the remediation of both typical and atypical use cases (application pools, SQL queries, Windows Services, etc.) The theory has been sound, but the implementation has been rife with difficulties.
- Create custom WMI monitors for specific Performance metrics on any Windows Server. This is done through a wizard interface that directly queries the Performance Monitor and gives you the same basic interface for selecting specific metrics. Truly the easiest I've ever worked with.
- Out of the box support for standard IIS monitoring that checks all of the standard metrics using a module called AppInsight for IIS. For straight-up out of the box usage, this is a great solution.
- A very straightforward method of adding additional nodes and matching them to precreated templates to reduce the additional work of adding the same components over and over to the same types of servers (especially when considering a large web farm where every server needs the exact same set of monitors.)
- Customization of the AppInsight for IIS monitors is cumbersome and, in some cases, non-existent. If your organization has atypical requirements, it is difficult to customize and, in a few cases, seemingly impossible (or at least requires a huge effort.)
- Initial setup of SolarWinds SAM was a series of headaches that required multiple calls to support. Again, there is no easy path to solve issues because even the techs have no idea what to do. This just means that SAM's error reporting lacks clarity.
- It is completely confusing as to when you should use Agents or when you shouldn't. Also, techs do not agree. There needs to be more consistent messaging here.
- The SQL backend for this tool is VERY sensitive to performance issues. It really is best to use a dedicated SQL server, but this really shouldn't be necessary. We launched this against a single farm of 10 nodes and it can take up to 2-6 hours for the system to notice changes to that environment. This is unacceptable. The solution? Move to dedicated SQL. That makes an expensive product quickly more expensive.
- Quick and simple set up of monitoring for standard applications is amazingly simple and easy to use - this is a far cry from the Manual creation of monitors usually required by other tools.
- AppInsight suites bundle a large number of monitors for a low overall component hit (SAM is licensed by component) that would otherwise require a much larger number of components to provide the same level of monitoring (this makes the overall cost lower and increases ROI)
- The engineering time required to troubleshoot non-standard deployments and atypical server setups is extreme and getting the right tech to help you seems to be more of a roulette game. This is a huge time-waster.
We removed What's Up Gold from our environment due to a number of difficulties we were encountering with it and it ended up a very unreliable source of information as it began to consistently create false positives and the primary support remediation we received was rebuilding our DB and clearing out specific pointers. It became cumbersome and difficult to maintain. We replaced it with a combination of PRTG and Nagios XI. While both of these tools are performing admirably, performing auto-remediation of basic functions (restarting app pools, services, etc.) were very cumbersome to implement. Both systems required more extensive customization and scripts to be deployed to the servers where we wanted to perform the remediation or customized WMI queries placed in specific locations (outside the interface). SAM provides these features from within the interface as well as a wizard to create custom WMI queries directly interfacing the performance monitor on each server. Straightforward and easy. This is what we needed.
If you have a standard IIS environment where little customization is required and can use dedicated SQL resources, SAM shines. It is easy to use, easy to configure and just works out of the box. If your environment required heavy customization or you only need to utilize a portion of the AppInsight modules... you may need to look elsewhere because the setup is a headache. The problem? For the cost, there are few application that provide the level, ease-of-use, and reliability of auto-remediation that SolarWinds provides in SAM. So, this may still be for you, but make sure you budget time and take advantage of all of their free educational tools and prepare for a lot of calls to support to help you overcome this hurdle.